De-Mystifying Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is a long time and very easy to understand concept. In this very competitive age customer service is paramount to retailers. These retailers hire mystery shoppers, also known as secret shoppers to evaluate staff performance, check on customer service and evaluate front line cashier staff. Retail managers use mystery shopping for efficient evaluation of their business practices, their goods delivery and their employees’ company and product knowledge as well as customer service practices and skills.

Those hired for mystery shopping visit retailers in the pose of a customer and then write up the details of their experience shopping there. Typically they are responded to a questionnaire. Retailers are not the only ones using mystery shoppers, however. Banks and other financial institutions hired mystery shoppers, as well as convenience stores, restaurants, manufacturers, entertainment firms and even service firms.

While in theory anyone can mystery shop, you do need to be professional and responsible, with a good level of observation and memory skills, and the ability to succinctly and clearly put into written words the details about your experience.

You should never have to pay upfront for the opportunity to do mystery shopping. If a mystery-shopping firm is asking you to do so they are not making you a legitimate job offer. This is a scam. They may call it a registration fee or say that you are purchasing a list of firms that offer mystery shopping. But, whatever they call it you shouldn’t pay the fee.

Legitimate mystery shopping companies will train you, give you tips for improving your mystery shopping skills and sometimes let you keep what you shop – for free. There are several ways of reimbursing you for your services. You will either get a fee for each shopping experience that is agreed upon before you shop, or you’ll be reimbursed for your purchase, or you may get both. The worse that will happen is that you get to dine for free, buy clothes and other goods that you choose, at no charge, or avail yourself of services that you don’t have to pay for.

Most mystery shopping companies have a very short online registration to apply for the mystery shopper position. They’ll ask for your e-mail address and phone number. You have to show a lot of flexibility, though – at least at first. Many assignments could be last minute, and this is no nine to five job. You may need a digital camera for some shopping evaluations, and you should have Internet access, email and fax availability.

Mystery shopping is not a regular job. You could wait months for your first work, with no set schedule guarantee. You might get an assignment that requires an hour or two of work, or one that sends you off on a two week cruise. You just never know. You should plan on registering with several mystery-shopping firms. You might do well to look at online message boards and forums for mystery shopping to find firms that are looking for new mystery shoppers.

Companies that offer legitimate mystery shopping work include Mystery Diners Inc., which specializes in sending mystery shoppers to evaluate employees and services of the restaurant and bar industries; Bare associates, a global firm that offers online mystery shopping training; Certified Reports Inc. that specializes in the entertainment industry such as theatres; and a Closer Look that provides mystery shopping evaluations for the hospitality (hotel and restaurant) industry.

Another mystery shopping firm is Intelli Shop which not only offers on-site mystery shopping evaluations but call centers that can evaluate your telephone sales and customer service team and online evaluations of your site’s services. The mystery shopping company Employee Evaluator specializes in evaluation of real estate agencies and services, but can also offer mystery-shopping evaluations of just about any type of firm; and Amusement Advantage. This firm specializes in the amusement industry, offering mystery shopping evaluations of arcades, amusement parks, theatres, golf courses, aquariums, zoos and even convention and visitors bureaus and tourist information centers. Alex Ruban is the owner of Paid Surveys since March, 2009. His site provides information about hundreds of free legitimate paid online surveys, polls, and focus group providers along with detailed reviews, descriptions of each program, paid survey guidelines and useful tips.

(c) 2009, Free Paid Surveys Online Directory. Reprint rights granted so long as article and by-line are printed intact and all links made live.

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Written by: Alex Ruban

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